Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Amazon Prime – Mad Dogs

You know how sometimes something looks too good to be true?  That’s how felt about Mad Dogs. 

It’s a show from the creator of The Shield, Shawn Ryan, and stars Steve Zahn, Romany Malco and Michael Imperioli.  That’s a pretty good pedigree of talent. 

So, was Mad Dogs too good to be true? 

Mad Dogs tells the tale of four friends who take a trip down to Belize to celebrate the retirement of a fifth friend, who lives down there.  They all arrive with their own baggage. The married Cobi (Steve Zahn) could have partnered with Milo (Billy Zane) but went the safe route.  Joel (Ben Chaplin) still carried a torch for Cobi’s wife.  Lex (Michael Imperioli) is in recovery and just scraping by.  Gus (Romany Malco) is divorced and broke after ruining his marriage. 

Of course the grass is always greener, so Milo’s lavish life in Belize not only provides for a nice getaway, but also shows them what they didn’t achieve.  And Milo also provides them with flowing gift baskets once they arrive, including (unsubtly) camcorders. 

But after a day of fun, tensions begin to flare.  Milo is being pressured by some shady characters, who dump a dead goat into his pool, and he begins to pick at his friends.  His friends bury the goat and then things get crazy.  In retaliation for the goat, Milo steals a boat and his friend go along for the ride, thinking everything is kosher.  Once they realize it’s not, they want out. 

Milo persuades them to have one final meal together.  The evening doesn’t end well and someone ends up dead.  A mess is cleaned up.  But the next day, when a local cop (Athena Karkanis) drops by to inquire about the missing boat, the guys decide to leave the country.  The only problem is that Cobi left his camera on the boat, which has footage of them, carefree and using names. 

Mad Dogs is an adaption of a British show of the same name.  I haven’t seen it, but British adaptation seem to be split pretty evenly between impressive and forgettable.  So far Mad Dogs is in the former category. 

Mad Dogs makes the sound decision of not spelling everything out.  The audience doesn’t get too much back story into the group of friends, how they met or how they grew apart, which makes sense; old friends with a shared history naturally wouldn’t provide exposition like that.   

Director Charles McDougall knows how to maximize the creepy, as he does expertly in the dinner scene.  The visual of the diminutive killer in a cat mask is haunting and effective.  That said, the use of the cameras in the first act practically screams “these cameras will be important later” which undermines the reveal of the left camera. 

The actors all a really solid job with their roles.  No one is really asked to do anything extraordinary, except maybe for Chaplin who has to put on an American accent.  He doesn’t quite have it down, which is mildly distracting. 

Athena Karkanis was a pleasant surprise.  She was one of the best things about AMC’s Low Winter Sun (another adaptation of a British show) so seeing her turn up really captured my attention.  Given her role, I imagine that, should Mad Dogs move forward, she’ll become an important part of the show in the future. 

Mad Dogs was the one pilot this season that I had expectations for going into it and I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed. 

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